In John Cena vs. AJ Styles, you’ve got one of the finest feuds to have happened all year (and, believe it or not, there has been some stiff competition in recent months).
In AJ Styles, we finally have a wrestler on John Cena’s level, able to deliver those rare and exciting clean victories over him. After taking him down at SummerSlam, Cena teased retirement and vanished for weeks. All the while AJ Styles mercilessly rubbed salt in the wound, reminding us week after week that he was the new face that runs the place. Making his return to put the “Phenomenal One” in his place, John Cena is giving us an intense, personal feud that would be happening, titles or not.
This made Dean Ambrose’s presence in this bitter rivalry all the more baffling, from both a creative and an entertainment standpoint.
The WWE had not capitalized on Ambrose’s heel heat that he started drawing for assaulting a newly popular John Cena. WWE is doing wonders to solidify Styles as a heel and Cena as a babyface; they are the two who are going to divide the trueblood fans who root for the heroes and the rebels who vote for the villains. With Ambrose showing no allegiance either way and not having enough of a beef with either Cena or Styles to match up to their intensity, he was a strange third-wheel figure who nobody wants to see getting in the way of finding out who really is the best.
It had seemed like WWE was cementing Ambrose as the clear intolerable tweener figure, with all of the success of Roman Reigns on Raw.
Let us be clear: The squabble for the Universal Championship between Kevin Owens and Seth Rollins has been so intense and both guys have reasonably solid motivations for hating each other. When Reigns was pointlessly involved in that title picture (and he deserved to be even less than Ambrose), it was like watching a clingy person showing up at their best friend’s date and spoiling the atmosphere.
All of that changed, however, when John Cena finally rose above being perfect and honorable at all times, by distracting Dean Ambrose during his championship rematch against AJ Styles, costing him the bout in the process. Had Ambrose simply lost the match, it would have made his second shot at the WWE World Championship at the No Mercy triple threat seem just a little pointless and unjustified. Had Ambrose won the belt, he would have been a dull emotional presence in the ring, trampling over John Cena’s beef with A.J. Styles and keeping the two away from each other for longer than was needed.
But now, he is no longer a man who wants to take revenge on AJ Styles and couldn’t give a damn about John Cena. Cena put himself in the firing line by wronging Ambrose, albeit inadvertently (in trying to get his hands on AJ Styles, Cena had distracted the referee while Ambrose had gone for a cover). From being a third wheel sharing a hatred of AJ Styles with John Cena, to having a legitimate reason to want rid of both men, Ambrose has skyrocketed so vital relevance in this match.
All too often, WWE’s multi-man matches are platforms for feuds between two guys, with others inserted to keep a busy match exciting and the card varied. Cena vs. Styles was a match that definitely could have done without a third player. With Ambrose’s revitalized “beef,” the triple threat makes sense. All that remains is for Ambrose to seriously wrong Cena next week on SmackDown to complete a triumvirate of bitterness; a potent cocktail for any triple threat.